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Cong firm on bill, BJP unlikely to oppose

New Delhi, Feb 13: Having come this far and suffered so much, the Congress leadership is determined to pass the Telangana bill come what may and will leave no stone unturned to achieve this goal next week.

Government sources said the BJP’s stand was still uncertain but it was unlikely anyone would risk blocking the bill at this stage. With the suspension of 16 MPs, who will not be allowed to enter Parliament for the next five days, there is no apparent hurdle within the House.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi condemned the behaviour of the party’s expelled MPs as “despicable and intolerable” and called for the strictest punishment.

But he faced a volley of questions about the party mishandling the issue and creating a situation in which its own MPs set upon colleagues. At least three Parliament sessions were disrupted by Andhra MPs but the Congress leadership could not resolve the issue.

Although the Congress spokesperson would not hazard a guess on when the bill would be passed, other senior leaders said Telangana would be created this month.

The BJP described the bill’s introduction as “improper and incorrect”, registered its protest with Speaker Meira Kumar and stressed it would not speak to the government again “in any form”. But it believes the bill “must be passed”.

For the Opposition party, which has a small base in Telangana and virtually nothing in the rest of Andhra Pradesh until now, it is more about its avowed commitment to the creation of new states and the fact that Telangana was a “promise” the BJP had enshrined way back in 1997 in a party resolution.

The BJP’s original calculation was the Congress’s “mess-up” over Telangana would help it in both states. “But if the government passes the bill, the chances are the Congress will tie up with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and do well in the 17 seats. We could end up as a straggler,” an Andhra BJP source said.

A BJP leader said the party’s stand would be that “bill is too monumental to be passed in chaos. There should be a discussion and amendments must be debated and voted upon”.

But there was all-round scepticism whether this would happen. “Sonia Gandhi seems determined to have it passed so that she can at least say the Congress has fulfilled a major commitment. So the bill could be passed amidst as much bedlam as it was when it was introduced,” a source said.

Realising that the Congress could gain in Telangana but be routed elsewhere, BJP sources said now was the time for them to flog their line of “justice for Seemandhra”. “We must campaign in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema,” a source said.

For the record, Lok Sabha Opposition leader Sushma Swaraj said the Congress was “responsible” for today’s happenings and it was “playing a game”. “I do not know when the Speaker came, when the bill was introduced.”